So I signed up with Charter Communications for a “bundle” deal that is supposed to give me basic cable, internet and phone service for the nominal fee of $69.97 per month for a year. Upon installation, I hook up the TV to discover that instead of basic cable (which, according to the dame that I spoke with on the phone, consists of only twenty channels…half of which appear to be of the home-shopping variety) I am now the recipient of an upgrade…which means I have seventy-some channels, including my beloved TCM. (Further research has turned up the information that the mistake is on their end: I took a gander at my cable bill online and it would appear that I’m in arrears to the tune of eighty-two bucks and change. I’m going to let the old man handle this one, since he made the arrangements for cable/internet/phone service to begin with.)
One channel that has caught my interest, however, is RTN: the Retro Television Network. It’s a system of TV stations that show reruns of old TV shows, and is designed to operate on a digital sub channel for local broadcast stations—allowing channels to expand their programming options. (For Savannahians, RTN is carried through a sub channel of WSAV-TV’s—you’ll find it on channel 29 if you’ve got DirecTV.) In some markets, RTN runs 24/7—but the programming on Atlanta’s RTN (channel 126 on the Charter lineup) airs from 10:00am to 1:00am, with the rest of the broadcast day’s schedule occupied by infomercials.
They’ve got some pretty good shows on RTN, which I’d describe as “like TV Land, only better.” That is to say, they don’t squander their broadcast day with non-classic TV crap like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition reruns or movies or “TV Land exclusives” like The Big 4-0. (Though in all fairness, RTN does dedicate a couple of hours to a program entitled Offbeat Cinema on Saturday nights, which does spotlight public-domain cult films.) Granted, many of the shows on RTN are slowly making their way to DVD but it’s nice to be able to watch programs like The Fugitive (weekdays at 2pm), particularly since that program’s DVD releases are moving along with the speed of glaciers. I particularly enjoy kicking back in the evenings for their Hawaii Five-O (9pm) and Mission: Impossible (11pm) reruns—even though they are heavily edited with commercials plugging products that require you to dial a toll-free number. (My new favorite is the one that asks people to put their old or broken gold jewelry in an envelope and mail it to them.)
RTN’s a little top-heavy with the 70s and 80’s stuff: Knight Rider, Airwolf, Matlock, Magnum, PI, etc.—shows that I wouldn’t watch when they were originally on and have no desire to see in reruns. But some of their offerings offer some particularly pleasing nostalgia: after seeing a Cannon rerun the other day I realized that if I ever had designs on being a private investigator, Frank Cannon would be my role model. The weekend afternoon schedules are similar to the old TV Land/Family Channel/Hallmark lineups: reruns of Bonanza, Rawhide, Gunsmoke…and for added novelty, The Wild, Wild West.
The beauty of RTN is that for each broadcast market that they’re in, they tailor the schedule to ensure that there’s no conflict with competing stations showing the same reruns (as if you’d find something like that nowadays) but the downside to this is that many of their programs aren’t available in some markets. I’d like to be able to see The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Have Gun – Will Travel, Marshal Dillon (the half-hour Gunsmokes) and Petticoat Junction…but I guess you can’t have everything. (Of course, once I get this cable snafu straightened out I may not have anything.)